Dr. Vivek Murthy, the U.S. surgeon general, warned on Sunday that the spike in Omicron coronavirus cases had yet to peak nationwide, saying the next few weeks would be very difficult in many parts of the country. country as hospitalizations and deaths increased.
In a CNN “State of the Union” interview, Dr. Murthy noted the “good news” of plateaus and declines in known cases in the Northeast, particularly New York and New Jersey.
But “the challenge is that the whole country is not moving at the same pace”, he said, adding “we should not expect a national peak in the next few days”.
“The next few weeks will be difficult,” he said.
The highly contagious variant of Omicron has fueled an explosive spike in known cases, with an average of more than 800,000 new cases per day reported on Saturday, according to a New York Times database.
Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, also expressed concern that the next few weeks could overwhelm hospitals and staff. ‘Right now we’re about 150,000 people in hospital with Covid,’ he said on ‘Fox News Sunday’. “It’s more than we’ve ever had. I expect these numbers to increase significantly.
In Kansas City, Mo., Omicron has overwhelmed hospitals since the holiday season, city mayor Quentin Lucas said in a interview on CBS’ “Face the Nation”.
“We’ve seen incredible challenges in our healthcare network, even recruiting employees who work in our EMS, fire and public safety departments,” Lucas said. “It’s a significant concern.”
About this data
Sources: National and local health agencies (cases, deaths); US Department of Health and Human Services (hospitalizations).
In addition, Omicron highlighted the long-standing lack of adequate testing supplies, with consumers now exhausting pharmacies of expensive rapid tests – a two-test box ranging from $14 to $24 – and creating long lines of waiting at test sites.
The federal government has promised to distribute a billion rapid home coronavirus tests to Americans, limiting each household to requesting four free tests. And new federal rules require private insurers to cover up to eight home tests per member per month.
But with test orders and reimbursement processes hampered by delays, Americans likely won’t have tests in hand for weeks, which may be too late in some places with high demand as infections rise. spread.
“We ordered too few test kits, so our testing capacity continued to lag behind each wave,” Tom Bossert, President Trump’s homeland security adviser, told ABC’s This Week. “. “It’s too little and too late, but remarkable for the next wave.”
While many people infected with Omicron have shown no or mild symptoms, others – especially those who have not been vaccinated and those with chronic illnesses – have suffered from more serious illnesses that were already overwhelming hospitals in some states late last year.
Dr Murthy disagreed with the Supreme Court ruling last week that rejected President Biden’s vaccine or testing mandate for large employers that would have applied to more than 80 million workers.
“Well, the news of the workplace requirement being blocked was very disappointing,” Dr Murthy said. “It was a setback for public health. Because these requirements are ultimately useful not only to protect the community as a whole; but to make our workplaces safer for workers as well as customers.
Nearly 63% of the US population is fully vaccinated, but only 38% of them have received a booster shot, which some say should be the new definition of fully vaccinated. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention hasn’t changed the definition of full vaccination, but recently said it considers three doses of Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines “up-to-date,” as well as Johnson & Johnson shots. with a second dose, preferably Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech.
Last week, the CDC finally acknowledged that cloth masks don’t offer as much protection as a surgical mask or respirator, something some experts have urged the agency to recommend to the general public. The advent of Omicron with its highly transmissible rate has prompted public health officials to promote higher protective masks, such as the KN95 and N95 masks which offer over 90% protection.
Confusing and inconsistent messaging from the CDC and other agencies has made it harder for Americans to understand the state of the virus and how to respond, Dr. Jha said on “Fox News Sunday.”
“I think the White House needs to pull together its messaging discipline, needs to make sure people are talking about the same page,” Dr Jha said. While the science has changed, the message “has not kept pace”, he added.
“Please, please get vaccinated,” Dr. Murthy said on ABC, noting that vaccines still provide good protection against serious illnesses. “It is not yet too late.”